San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Business Transactions

Selling your business can make a good profit when sold to the right buyer. When you decide to exit the company, selling your business may be a good strategy. A business sale may not be easy, but there can be many rewards and benefits. If you’re interested in selling your business for profit, there are 3 things to keep in mind to make sure the process goes smoothly and without a legal hitch.

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3 Tips for Selling Your Business

  1. Hire Counsel

You’ll need someone in your court with a background on financial and business transactions. An experienced business attorney can help you prepare necessary documents and close the sale. You’ll want to lay out all finances to see how they may impact your personal wealth. You also won’t want to let the stress of the sale process lead to missed deadlines or late filing of documents. There are a lot of planning, structural, legal, and financial issues involved with the sale of a business, so having an experienced business attorney will be critical to ensure you’re making the right decisions. Continue Reading

Among people who are actively involved in business, Delaware is known as the state that is perhaps the most corporation-friendly in the United States. According to the state of Delaware, it has been “preeminent” as a place for businesses to incorporate since the early part of the 20th century, and more than half of all Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware. Clearly, there must be certain benefits of incorporating in Delaware that have been attracting businesses for more than one hundred years. Some of the most commonly cited benefits of incorporating your business in Delaware are detailed below.

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Flexible laws – The Delaware General Corporation Law provides corporations and shareholders tremendous flexibility in the way a corporation operates. In fact, an official publication distributed by the Delaware Department of State indicates that its corporate law has been written with a “bias against regulation.” Continue Reading

If you’re thinking about starting a nonprofit, there are some steps to take before you begin. Forming a nonprofit organization is much like starting a regular corporation, except there are several additional steps you must take to ensure tax-exempt status, which includes a rigorous application process. Here are some common questions and their answers about forming a nonprofit organization.

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Forming a Nonprofit Organization: Common Questions and Answers

What does ‘501(c)3’ mean?

Being a 501(c)3 corporation means a company has been approved by the IRS as a charitable organization, exempt from specified taxes. The IRS may grant your nonprofit organization tax-exempt status if the nonprofit was formed for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes, so long as the nonprofit does not distribute profits to individuals above reasonable compensation. Continue Reading

January 1st brought 930 new California laws which are enforceable in the new year. We’d like to share some of the new and relevant laws for 2015 that may affect you and your business activities. Here are 7 new federal and California laws that took effect January 1st.

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7 New Laws for 2015

  1. Driver’s Licensing

Experts expect more than a million applications for California driver’s licenses to flood the DMV offices following new laws allowing non-U.S. citizens without documentation to get driver’s licenses. Continue Reading

As much as you may want to avoid litigation when it comes to your business, conflicts arise and are sometimes unavoidable as a cost of running a successful business. While you and your business partners may have other philosophies on handling workplace issues, sometimes litigation is the best course of action to deal with messy company separations, distribution of assets, protecting your property, and sometimes even handling suppliers and consumers.

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As a business owner involved in litigation, you don’t need to resort to spending years in litigation or paying unreasonable settlement sums; you need to build strategies with a business lawyer so you can resolve conflicts efficiently and effectively, and maximize your ability to avoid future disputes. When litigation is initiated, it is important that it is done right to avoid unnecessary mistakes that waste all parties’ time and money.

Here are 5 common legal mistakes business owners can make when stepping into legal territory, and how to avoid them.

1. Not Taking the Lawsuit Seriously. If you know you haven’t done anything wrong, it can be tempting to avoid hiring a lawyer at all. Developing a strategy, finding and interviewing witnesses, and getting paperwork in order can all be costly to your business if not done properly. To ensure you can keep your full attention on business operations during the lawsuit, hire a litigation attorney who specializes in helping business owners.

2. Not Considering Other Options. Sometimes in sticky litigation battles, one or either party may be too eager to settle before taking full stock of all assets at stake. Mediation and arbitration may also be other options to consider before going to court to save money on fees and avoid long delays.

3. Making Decisions Based on Emotions.

Being involved in litigation can be a highly emotional experience, and it can get very difficult to make important decisions that will affect your business. Instead of making impaired decisions based on your emotions, work with a business litigation attorney to come up with a strategic plan based on a cost-benefit analysis. Remember that the dispute is business related, and not personal.

4. Keeping Information from your Lawyer. Your lawyer is there to help you navigate the process, so it’s imperative that you keep your lawyer apprised of all relevant information. Sometimes it may be overwhelming and frightening to present the “bad facts” to your lawyer, but hiding facts can seriously impact your chances of success in settlement discussions or in court.

5. Using the Wrong Lawyer. Be sure to do your research when it comes to finding a lawyer that specializes in the type of dispute you are a part of. The right lawyer will be able to provide you with objective advice that is best suited toward your business. Business can be extremely personal so it can be easy to overlook pertinent facts. To avoid clouded judgment and conquer inflexibility, always consult legal counsel to ensure your best chances of success. If you need advice or assistance on how to proceed, contact your team at Structure Law Group.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

Pros and Cons of a C Corporation vs. an S Corporation

Selecting a business entity is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur faces. There are numerous options including sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations. To make things even more complicated, there are two primary types of corporations, each with its own benefits. In order to ensure you choose the best business entity for your purposes, you should always conduct careful research and consult with an experienced California business attorney to discuss your options.

Once you have decided you want to incorporate, your options are to form a regular C Corporation or an S Corporation. Though these two types of corporations are quite similar, there are a few key differences that can determine which one is right for your business.

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3 Similarities between S & C Corporations

The following are a few ways that an S Corporation and C Corporation are alike:

1. Both types of corporations are owned by the shareholders, who have protections from liability for business debts and most business-related legal matters.
2. Both are structured the same way: the shareholder/owners elect a board of directors that oversees major issues. The board of directors then elects officers, who handle the day-to-day operations of the business.

3. Both must comply with state law regarding document filings, fees, bylaw and more.

Differences Between S Corporations and C Corporations

The most important difference between an S Corporation and C Corporation is the way that they are taxed. In both cases, shareholders pay taxes on dividends of any distributions of profits. A C Corporation, however, may also be taxed on the corporate level, which means it may be subject to double taxation. On the other hand, the taxes for an S Corporation all pass-through to the shareholders, so there is only single taxation. This pass-through taxation is authorized by IRS Code, Subchapter S of Chapter 1.

Though the single taxation of an S Corporation likely sounds preferable, the S Corporation entity is not an option for every business. Another difference between the two is that, while a C Corporation can be quite large and have numerous shareholders, an S Corporation may only have a maximum of 100 shareholders. In fact, the IRS created Subchapter S in part to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurship. Therefore, the size of your business may play a significant role in the type of corporate entity you choose.

If you have any questions about C Corporations, S Corporations, or other business entities, do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney at the Structure Law Group for assistance today.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

As a business and M&A lawyer in San Jose, it is not uncommon for me to burn the midnight oil hammering out a deal for a Silicon Valley client. There is often a need to break from the perpetually connected life to recharge the lithium cells, so to speak. On a recent bike ride in Santa Clara on the local single track, it occurred to me that the life of a deal can be contained in a single mountain bike ride.

A ride starts with the first drop of a pedal. Any deal starts with the first realization that two people or groups can get together and construct a process that will create value for both of them. Whether it is a simple software license, or a complex strategic alliance and funding deal, it is that first pedal that moves everything forward.

Whether you are involved in a transaction deal or a single track mountain bike ride, you need the right tools to make it all work. For a lawyer, it is the years of learning that just begin after you leave law school. The late nights wrestling with creating a structure that will reduce risks and the time spent attending or teaching professional seminars all contribute to the base of knowledge that comes to bear in every transaction. Making sure your tires fit the trail and your derailleur is adjusted and chain oiled can make the difference between a ride and an ordeal.

Both deals and rides can vary in how they start. Sometimes, you are thrown right into the negotiations, having just met the client minutes before, like the ride that starts with a pounding incline over gravel and sharp rock. Other times, there are in depth discussions over goals and approaches, like the trail that starts level and smooth through redwood shade.

Then, there is the slog. I ride in the mountains, and it is very typical for rides to start uphill, and end downhill. Cranking slowly up a ponderous grade is not glamorous, but is critical to getting to your goal. Even a business deal built on insightful strategy needs implementation, and it is the late nights and weekends, slogging through reams of documentation and often mind-numbing minutiae that lead to success. It is sweaty ponderous work, but somebody has got to do it.

The home stretch is where things can get, shall we say, interesting. In mountain biking, the downhill is where skill is required to keep bike and body together. Any mountain biker will tell you about their last “endo,” so named because your body has just gone “end over” the handle bars. Road rash and cracked ribs are the usual result. In deals, it is the same. At some point, some new fact or number is looked at just a little bit differently, or a recalcitrant stockholder will not cooperate, or a delayed negotiation on a major issue leads to stalemate, or a lawsuit from left field hits, and you have received the legal equivalent of a body slam. Although the first few minutes may feel like it is the end of the world, most times you pick yourself up, assess the damage, figure out the fix (time to replace the rear derailleur drop out or buy out that difficult stockholder) and continue on your way. In rare circumstances (like you just snapped your collar bone or the Federal Trade Commission will not approve your deal), you lick your wounds and try again another way on another day. But this is rare.

There is an old lyric that goes “… you better watch your speed, trouble ahead trouble behind, don’t you know that notion just crossed my mind”. All parties to a deal want it done yesterday, and the business case for doing so can be convincing. Going too fast on a mountain bike, however, can lead to the dreaded endo, and a whole other parade of orthopedic and epidermal horribles. In a business deal, it can be worse. The Time Warner AOL acquisition was rumored to have been negotiated and signed under a very compressed time schedule, and is taught in business schools as one of the worst mergers in American history. Go fast, but be deliberate and do it right.

Everyone will tell you that deals are not a sprint. In any ride, you need to make sure your energy stays fueled, or you will “bonk”, hit the wall, run out of gas, or hit countless other metaphors that mean you’ve just come to a full and complete stop. In a transaction, we call it deal fatigue. Bringing up countless new issues as a deal gets closer to close, experiencing unexpected delays, or a thousand other things, can kill a deal as fast as any bonk. The cure: deal with it upfront. Before a ride I slam a peanut butter sandwich (whole grain bread, thank you very much). Before a deal, the more I know about the parties, their business, motivation, experience and interests, and the more I know about getting done the type of deal in which I am involved, the less chance my transaction will bonk.

I could go on, but the last conference call just ended, the next turn of the agreement went out the door, and it is time to go spin the local single track.

The information appearing in this article does not constitute legal advice or opinion. Such advice and opinion are provided by the firm only upon engagement with respect to specific factual situations. Specific questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

As a Silicon Valley corporate attorney who often represents the selling company in mergers and acquisitions, I know that a huge amount of effort goes into signing an acquisition agreement. As I have discussed in past blogs, issues from earnouts to preparing exceptions schedules will have turned into countless hours of negotiations, documentation, and late night telephone calls for both the seller and the acquiring company and their corporate lawyers. In the end, the agreement is signed and everyone gets some well-needed sleep, only to wake up to the final sprint to closing.

In this blog, I will discuss what happens when a deal does not close simultaneously with the signing of the acquisition agreement. Similar to a contract for buying a house, many merger and acquisition deals require the buyer and seller to sign an agreement, and then perform additional items before the final closing.

At the same time as the deal team pours over the necessary closing tasks, there is still a business to run. Even though the seller remains in control of the business, the buyer wants to make sure it eventually acquires a company that is in good working order. For this reason, commitments are designed to guide business operations pending the closing.

Many aspects of the “operational covenants,” as they are sometimes called, are fairly standard. Material actions, such as entering into major contracts or making substantial capital expenditures, are called out as matters requiring the buyer’s consent before proceeding. The parties will negotiate the thresholds that are required for materiality and will typically allow exceptions for activities in the ordinary course of business.

In addition to the operational issues, there are a number of deal-oriented provisions. The first is our old friend the no-shop provision, explained in a prior blog (“Merger and Acquisition Letters of Intent – Binding the Nonbinding,” May 30, 2011). These provisions may become more involved than those in a letter of intent, and arguments revolve around, among other things, exceptions for unsolicited offers which a board believes must be accepted to satisfy its fiduciary duties, and the length of time the no-shop restriction will exist.

A buyer will typically want to continue to have access to the seller’s books and records. Once the deal is signed, the desire of the buyer to speak directly with the seller’s employees and customers increases. Sellers are reticent to allow a buyer to speak directly with the seller’s material customers, even if the deal has been publicly announced. To the extent the buyer needs to speak with the seller’s customers, the specific customers to whom the buyer can speak are usually specifically negotiated. The buyer will also want to speak directly with the seller’s key employees. Negotiations often focus on the buyer’s ability to terminate the transaction if certain key employees do not continue with the business.

A key aspect of deal-oriented provisions is the parties’ commitments to secure the necessary stockholder and regulatory approvals. As part of the stockholder approval process, the buyer will usually require that the seller’s Board of Directors unanimously recommend stockholder approval. Often, voting agreements are signed as part of the acquisition agreement signing to lock-up the votes of the major stockholders.

Regulatory approvals can run the gamut from simple bulk sales notices and escrows (for small, asset-based transactions), to Premerger Notifications to the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice (for multi-million dollar acquisitions). Timing issues on these matters need to be considered carefully, due to the need to prepare necessary filings and provide appropriate notice.

A critical post-signing activity is the Seller’s need to secure consents to the transaction from important suppliers and customers. Often, a seller’s material contracts will contain provisions that require the other party to approve a transaction to prevent the contract from being breached. Securing this consent can be a quick formality, or a delay ridden nightmare. It is very important for the seller to determine which contracts require the approval of the other party to the contract, and the process, and time required, to secure the necessary approval. The best approach is for the seller to review all of its materials agreements even before the deal starts, so that the approval process can begin very quickly after the acquisition agreement is signed.

Although signing an acquisition agreement is a giant step forward in any transaction, there can be a number of tasks ahead that must be handled very carefully to ensure the long sought closing actually will occur. An experienced team is essential in this regard

The information appearing in this article does not constitute legal advice or opinion. Such advice and opinion are provided by the firm only upon engagement with respect to specific factual situations. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

As a merger and acquisition lawyer in Silicon Valley, I have been involved in numerous business transactions, from small startups transferring their technologies after getting acquired by other companies, to medium-sized and larger technology and pharmaceutical companies going public. With Facebook’s impending IPO, many companies in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Mountain View are expecting another technology boom. A company hoping to take advantage of the imminent dot-com boom and sell its business should make sure its books are in order and hire a good M&A attorney to prepare an acquisition agreement.

As discussed in my last blog, a seller will often make a number of commitments to a buyer concerning the seller’s business. These commitments, known as representations and warranties, allocate between the buyer and seller many of the risks existing in the seller’s business.

One of the most important documents accompanying the representations and warranties is a schedule that describes certain items requested to be disclosed, and any exceptions to the content of the representations and warranties. This document, which goes by “Schedule of Exceptions” or “Disclosure Schedule,” is really a description of the main documents and key agreements of the seller, and disclosures of material facts concerning the buyer and its operations. It can often take as much time to prepare and negotiate as the acquisition agreement itself. There are a number of things the seller can do to help expedite the preparation of this document.

First, keep good corporate records. As I discussed in my blog on due diligence, organizing the seller’s major documents, and making sure they are readily available, will considerably reduce the time to close the transaction.

Second, appoint someone who has intimate knowledge of the seller and its operations to assist in gathering requested documentation and answer the inevitable questions. Typically, the company’s chief financial officer or controller will fill this role.

Third, get all of the documents to the company’s attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers will need to review the documents and decide what types of schedules and disclosures will be required. This is a very time consuming process.

Fourth, discuss early on any areas where the company thinks a buyer might be concerned. This is not a time to sweep difficult issues under the rug, but a time to get them out in the open. There is nothing worse than being blind-sided at the last minute with the proverbial skeleton in the closet. Worse, failing to disclose difficult issues known to management can lead to a fraud claim, a claim for which the seller’s liability is never limited. Areas that raise concerns include any transactions between the seller and any of its insiders, litigation and threats of litigation, and accounting irregularities.

Fifth, start preparing the Disclosure Schedule as soon as possible. Attorneys that are experienced in acquisition transactions are aware of the likely representations that will be requested, and can start organizing and preparing the substance of the Disclosure Schedule even before the acquisition agreement is distributed. Delivering a completed Disclosure Schedule to buyer’s counsel sooner rather than later will surface any issues so they can be resolved in a timely manner.

Sixth, review the Disclosure Schedule with your attorney to determine if any issues exist that will delay closing. There are two major areas that need to be reviewed. The first is the approval that is required for the transaction to proceed. Almost always, this will involve approval by the board of directors and the shareholders of the Company. It may require preparation and delivery of a separate disclosure document to the shareholders to assist them in determining whether to approve the transaction. The second is the existence of any material agreements, desired by the buyer to operate the business, that require approval of the other party in order to close the transaction.

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Those endless representations and warranties in your acquisition agreement aren’t just for your merger and acquisition lawyer. Ignore them at your own risk.

Mergers and acquisitions in San Jose and elsewhere are a lot more complex than those of the past when deals were closed with a handshake. As acquisition documentation becomes more extensive, companies frequently turn to mergers and acquisitions attorneys to assist them with their transactions. One issue on which an attorney will focus deals with the representations and warranties of a seller.

A seller’s representations and warranties, which are the commitments that a seller will make to a buyer concerning the state of the seller’s business, make up one of the more extensive sections of an acquisition agreement and serve a number of functions. This is because they allocate between the buyer and seller many of the risks existing in the buyer’s business.

Representations allocate risk in a fairly straightforward manner. The seller will make a statement of fact regarding its business. If the seller’s statement is wrong, and the buyer is damaged as a result, the seller will compensate the buyer for any damages the buyer incurs.

An example helps illustrate the point. Let’s say that the seller states that it has paid all of its taxes, a very common representation. After the closing, the business that was sold gets hit with a sales tax audit, and is found to have underpaid its sales taxes. Because the seller’s representation was wrong (i.e., it hadn’t paid all of its taxes), the buyer, all other things being equal, can look to the seller for reimbursement for the amount of the additional sales tax liability.

The situation above describes the simplest form of risk allocation in an acquisition agreement. In this form, the seller bears the risk whether the seller knew there was a problem or not.

Some types of risk allocation shift risk only if the seller knew there was a problem. These representations, sometimes referred to as knowledge-qualified representations, allow a seller to escape liability in a representation if the seller did not know a problem existed.

In our sales tax example above, let’s say that the representation stated that the seller did not know of any nonpayment of taxes. Let’s also say that the seller’s officers were completely unaware that they had failed to pay any sales taxes. In that situation, the seller would not be liable for the sales tax liability.

Because acquisition agreements are prepared by lawyers, the concept of knowledge can mean different things. For example, does knowledge mean the subjective knowledge of the seller’s CEO, or the subjective knowledge of all of the seller’s employees? Does knowledge mean just what is in employees’ memories, or should employees be required to look through their files? If employees are required to look through files, should they also be required to look through other documentation, such as public records and other resources? For these reasons, it is critical that the concept of knowledge be defined so that the seller knows what they have to do to satisfy the representation, and both parties know how the risk is to be allocated.

What if the seller wants to allocate the risk of an item back to the buyer? When a seller makes a representation that he or she knows may not be entirely correct, the seller will disclose an “exception.” The seller provides this disclosure in a schedule commonly attached to acquisition agreements, known as a “disclosure schedule,” or a “schedule of exceptions.” Unless the agreement specifies otherwise, a buyer cannot recover for damages for an item that has been disclosed.

Going back to our sales tax example, if the seller knew there was a problem, the seller would describe the problem in a disclosure schedule. The seller would say something like “Seller underpaid its sales tax liability for the periods 2008 through 2010, which liability seller believes to be between $50,000 and $75,000.” The buyer could not thereafter bring a claim for reimbursement for the later assessed tax liability as a result of the seller’s disclosed exception.

As I mentioned above, representations and warranties, and their accompanying disclosures, are heavily negotiated. One point of contention is whether the risk of an item, even when disclosed, should be allocated to the buyer. Buyers with sufficient leverage will force the seller to remove the disclosed item, or affirmatively accept the risk associated with the item. Another point of contention is what the concept of knowledge means, and whether knowledge can qualify a particular representation. For these reasons, it is critical to spend a lot of time understanding the representations and warranties of any acquisition agreement so that you can understand the risks that may exist for you in a deal.

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